After a cold-shooting first half, Walla Walla heated up in the second half and shot down Treasure Valley 92-87 Wednesday night in a men’s Northwest Athletic Conference East Region basketball game in the Dietrich Dome.
The Warriors shot just 29 percent from the field overall and 28 percent from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes. But they connected on 50 percent of their shots overall and 52 percent from downtown after the intermission.
That improved accuracy allowed the Walla Wallans to erase a 42-39 halftime deficit, build a 15-point lead with around eight minutes remaining and hold off the Chukars down the stretch to remain alone atop the East standings.
The Warriors are now 6-1 in region play and 15-4 overall with one game remaining in the first round of league games. The Warriors are at Columbia Basin College in Pasco Saturday.
Treasure Valley saw its record level at 3-3 in the East. The Chukars are now 10-7 overall heading into a Saturday home game against Yakima.
“For the most part we didn’t play well in the first half,” WWCC coach Jeff Reinland said. “We were really cold. We’re battling the flu right now, four or five guys plus the coach, and we had to gut this one out.”
Gabe Porter led the way for the Warriors with 29 points. Dalton Thompson followed with 18 points and a team-high eight rebounds, and three others finished in double figures. Caulin Bakalarski tallied 17 points, Landon Radliff contributed 13 and Beau Tilleman scored 11 from his low-post position.
The Chukars’ Tyus Jefferson pumped in 32 points to lead all scorers. Hunter Bailey followed with 19, Edo Okafor contributed 13 points and nine rebounds and Jaden Vaughn scored 12.
Treasure Valley made three more field goals and six more free throws than the Warriors. But the Chukars couldn’t keep pace with the host team from 3-point distance.
While the Warriors were knocking down 18-of-46 3-point attempts, Treasure Valley was successful on just one of their 15 casts from downtown.
“They are not a huge 3-point shooting team,” Reinland said of the Chukars. “But in the film I watched them, they shoot it pretty effectively.
“We knew going in that our matchup problem was going to be Jefferson and you can tell that he caused us quite a bit of trouble. He’s a really quick point guard who gets to the hole well and shoots well enough from the perimeter that you can’t sag off of him.”
In addition to a better shooting touch in the second half, Reinland said his team’s use of a zone defense helped turn the game around.
“We went to a zone the last 15 minutes and they struggled shooting over it,” Reinland said. “We extended pretty well and they didn’t get a lot of open looks, and when they did they were pretty long shots.”
Columbia Basin, WWCC’s Saturday foe, is winless in the region so far and 1-16 overall. But Reinland doesn’t want his players looking past the Hawks.
“It’s a scary game,” the coach said. “They barely lost at Big Bend and they played Spokane tough. They are definitely capable.
“We like where we are at in the standings but we have to just keep playing one game at a time. And see if we can get healthy.”